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The Big Event (Creative Writing Exercise)

Yesterday I jumped into what makes a story, and I focused heavily on the Conflict Resolution Cycle. The protagonist (your main character) is constantly trying to get out of the story you’re telling, but obstacles keep popping up all along the way.

And the biggest obstacle, of course, is the very first one. The big event. Something happens, something bold and dramatic, to derail your protagonist’s life. That’s the impetus of every story, and it’s usually a lot of fun.

I’ve been haranguing you to get to your big events early. First page, I’m always saying, and first paragraph if you can manage it. So let’s practice. This week’s writing assignment is one to three pages (300-900 words), and in that space I want you to start a story. Give us a character, give us a glimpse — the barest hint — of what his or her life is like beforehand, and then mess it all up.

If you’re already doing that in your writing, share it with us. Paste in pages one to three. I promise I won’t steal your story idea, and you can show the rest of us how it’s done. If you’ve written hundreds of pages without ever clearly settling into any story (and, at some point, we all have), then it’s time to figure out what you want to have happen, and make it happen. At the very least, it’s a good idea to get some practice.

So write up a big event. You don’t have to finish the story, you don’t even have to have a plan for it. You have to fill up a couple pages, and I fully encourage you to leave it off with a brutal cliffhanger ending. Show you know how to get things moving, though. That’s the challenge.

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